Code Switching Among Students In Social Setting

Submitted By armusser
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Code-Switching Among Students in Social Setting


Amy R. Musser

Northwest Missouri State University

Summer 2014


The research of code-switching, changing from language to language in the midst of an utterance (Spolsky, 1998), in the speech communities within our city of St. Joseph was observed to see if there were cultural differences in this sociolinguistic aspect. The setting took place in St. Joseph, MO at the Broadmoor Apartment Complexes, which is located between Business Highway 71 and Interstate 29 in the Northeast part of the city. The methods of observation included talking with individuals, observing them at play/swim and listening to them speak to one another in informal settings while using tallies. The results indicated that when the students speak among peers in their speech communities, code-switching occurs regardless of L1 or L2 language usage. The culture of the speech community at the Broadmoor Apartments was very friendly and non-discriminating. Code-switching is being used in the social setting as a way to bridge the gaps for L1 speakers who are trying to get to a stronger L2 level. They (the weaker speaker) know where they need to be, but getting there is a struggle. This is also occurring among lower socioeconomic students with poor Standard English. They know there is a better way to speak, but getting there is the challenge.
Purpose of Study Language is the way we are understood to each other. Every language has its different ways to speak in boardrooms, barbecues, presentations, parties, conferences and clubs. Everyone, at some point, in his or her life has code-switched. If you’ve ever transitioned from on informal speech pattern to a more formal type of speech, you’ve “code-switched.” My purpose for choosing the sociolinguistic aspect of “code-switching” was because I wanted to know in social settings, what language is used a majority of the time by bilingual students.
Broadmoor Apartment Complex, located in St. Joseph, MO, containing over 300 housing units, is were this study took place. Within these housing units the occupants are the melting pot of the world. You will see on a normal school day as children are loading or unloading their busses, parents gathering in suits and ties with briefcases, some stay at home moms, babysitters, waitresses, etc. However, the majority of this melting pot belongs mostly to the Hispanic descent. These countries include: Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. The adult Hispanic population, only speak Spanish, while the school age children are bilingual. For Fisher (1971), a Speech community is a subtype of community “all of whose members share at least a single speech variety and the norms for its appropriate use Zhan, 2013, pp. 1327).” This speech community does just that.
First Observation The complex swimming pool was the location of my first observation. On the afternoon that I arrived, parents’ to three of the eight children swimming greeted and welcomed me to the pool. We knew each other because I had their children in school. The father speaks English, but it is very broken so his 7th grade daughter translated for us and explained that I wanted to observe the children and their language of choice in their social communities. He told me I could stay as long as I needed and that I was welcome anytime. The methods of observation included talking with the students, observing them at play/swim and listening to them speak to one another while recording tallies for the number of times they use English, Spanish and code-switching. The group consisted of seven girls and one boy ranging in kindergarten through eighth grade. The kindergartner and sixth grader did not interact with me at all and I knew them both. These particular students were from Cuba and Guatemala.
When discussing Spanish language with the children,